Call me Casper.
I’ve been ghosted so many times in my professional career that I should live in the Haunted Mansion and vacation at the Overlook Hotel. I’d feel at home in the presence of everyone from Banquo, Jacob Marley and Bloody Mary to Inky and Blinky, the Headless Horseman and Nearly Headless Nick.
I’m hardly alone. We all know that ghosting has become a professional epidemic. According to Chief Executive, 77% of job applicants say they have been ghosted by a potential employer since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. An almost equal percentage of employers say job candidates have done the same to them.
Less well-documented are meeting cancellations that never get rescheduled; unreturned calls, emails, texts or social media queries; networking requests that go unheeded; business proposals that are met with silence; and follow-ups from recruiters who seek you out then drop off the face of the Earth.
Don’t get me wrong. We all get busy or forget. We all suffer calendar glitches, personal emergencies, last-minute board meetings, limited cell service or Wi-Fi, or any of the many other inescapable quirks of modern business communication.
Nor am I talking about ignoring cold calls, likely scammers, or anyone who is rude, hostile or demanding.
However, getting a reputation for not responding to or following up in a timely and professional manner to legitimate business matters is a sure-fire way to erode your credibility. Every week I hear from supremely qualified colleagues who apply for suitable roles and yet never hear back from the company. The recruiter deserves some of the blame, but so does the hiring manager. Yes, you may have received thousands of applications for a single role. But many security job candidates spent hours examining the position and company description, researching the business, tailoring their resume, writing a cover letter and hopscotching through the online application.
They are invested. Ignoring them is disrespectful.
All it takes is one thoughtfully written response that can be used for every rejected applicant. Take the case of a colleague who applied for a senior security role at a major software company. This person had previously met the executive to whom the position reported, but didn’t get an interview. Within two months of applying, he received the following (edited) reply:
Thank you for taking the time to apply for the role.
We’re fortunate to have received a lot of interest in this role, resulting in a very competitive selection process and unfortunately, at this time we have decided not to move forward with your application.
While it didn’t work out this time, we hope you will continue to explore other opportunities with us by visiting our Career Site.
Thank you once again for your interest in our company, and we wish you all the best in your search for a suitable position.
Disappointing, but responsive, polite, encouraging and professional.
It’s even worse for your reputation if you ghost as a job seeker. If you skip an interview — or worse, fail to show up after you’ve been hired — you are likely to obliterate your reputation. Security executives (and recruiters) speak. A cavalier approach to your career or business relationships will stick to you like ectoplasmic slime.
That can turn you into something worse than a ghost: a persona non grata in the security profession